How much vitamin C is too much?

One thing that has always stuck with me is the idea that taking too much of a supplement can lead to expensive urine and not much more. In some cases overdoing on vitamins can also actually be dangerous, so how much is too much?

We hear a lot in the news about vitamin C and are told that if we take extra when we feel unwell it will simply get excreted from the body. Now, while many high street brands of vitamin C are only absorbed at a rate of 10-20%, that is not true of liposomal vitamin C, such as Altrient,  which we absorb 98% of. But can we overdose on that? Can vitamin C be toxic in large does and how much is too much?

I had a chance to chat to  Dr Thomas Levy, a board-certified cardiologist in the USA who has been researching high-dosage vitamin C for more than 25 years and asked him the question. To answer it he went back to the beginning when he first discovered vitamin C. Here is what he had to say….

When did you first discover the benefits of large doses of vitamin C?

Dr Thomas Levy: I was a traditional cardiologist some 25 years ago in Colorado Springs, Colorado and I happened to meet a fellow by the name of Dr Hal Huggins, a biological dentist, probably the first biological dentist of his time. One day he invited me to come by his clinic and, to make a long story short, I saw a very frail, ill, elderly lady with neurological disease, go through several hours of extensive dental work, the type that puts a collage student in bed for a week, you know. To my surprise, at the end of this, she was perky and bright-eyed and asking her caregiver to take her out to a good restaurant that night.

I said to myself “something just doesn’t fit here”. When I saw Dr Huggins I said, “Hal, what’s going on? Why is this lady so happy and feeling good after getting tortured by you for three hours?” And he pointed at the IV bag and said, “50 grams of vitamin C”. Well that was just out of left field, brand new information to me.

One thing I’m personally not accustomed to doing, is denying things that I witness. I saw that this was doing something phenomenal. I had no idea how, why or what the mechanism was, but it was at that instant literally that began my interest in research into vitamin C and brought me to where I am today.

Is a tiny amount of vitamin C  enough to prevent deficiency?

Alice Hart-Davis: OK, wow, so 50g of vitamin C, 50,000mg, that’s an enormous amount it seems, at least to those of us who are used to reading the papers over here which re always telling us, that vitamin C has barely any benefits and you only need a tiny bit to prevent deficiency. I know from your book you call vitamin C “one of the most fundamental things there is” and in fact a large doses, what a consumer would think of as large doses, are something that you would regard as more physiologically necessary for the body, can you tell us a bit about that?

TL: Yes, precisely. Probably the worst thing ever happened to vitamin C was being labelled a vitamin because the definition of a vitamin is really something you need in relatively tiny amounts to prevent a deficiency. Fairly small amounts of vitamin C will prevent you from getting scurvy, but it gives no hint at all as to what else vitamin C can do.

We know from the wild animals around us, that there is a four-enzyme sequence in the liver that converts glucose to vitamin C. Man has that too, except he’s missing (or has a genetic defect) in the fourth enzyme. When you look at wild animals of roughly the same size as human being, those animals will produce 6,7,8,9 or 10,000mg a day and, furthermore, they will secrete it directly into the blood, which means you’d need a phenomenal amount of supplementation to get the equivalent of that type of dose in the blood. When those animals get critically ill, they’ll start making 40, 50, 60 or 70,000mg until they get over that syndrome.

So, as it turns out, vitamin C is literally in every sense of the word the primary and most foundational nutrient in your body and, like any other nutrient, the more the better.

Isn’t taking large amounts of vitamin C toxic?

AHD: Ok, so, just to recap, humans used to have, way back down the evolutionary chain, we used to have this ability to create our own vitamin C, but we have lost that somewhere along the line. Ok, that is amazing, so actually our bodies can tolerate enormous doses?

TL: Not only tolerate, but welcome them. I’ve not identified any other substance that has no intrinsic toxicity in whatever amount that you take.  

How many oranges would you need to eat to get enough vitamin C?

AHD: Ok, thank you. Somebody is asking, I think slightly tongue in cheek, how many oranges would it take to show on the skin because you are what you eat? You can’t get this quantity of vitamin C that we are talking about from food/from a normal diet can you?

TL: No, not even close. For the actual amount of vitamin C inside an Altrient liposome packet, you’d probably need about 50 oranges, but even then you wouldn’t have the delivery, so really for the effect of the vitamin C you are getting inside the cell, there is probably no equivalent, or certainly it would be an astronomical number, far beyond what you’d want to put inside your stomach.

The other thing is, and let’s dispel this once and for all, there is no diet organic enough, complete enough, healthy enough to even come close to the vitamin C requirements you have on a daily basis and this is because of what I said at the outset, we should be making multi-gram qualities and secreting them directly into our blood but we’re not coming close to that. We tend to just have a group mentality when if we’re in the same boat as everybody else we don’t notice it. But it’s not normal to be 50 years old and have four prescription medications to keep you from having symptoms, that’s not health even though that’s the “health” that most people share. When you can get the vitamin C levels up, a lot of that starts to dissipate.

How many grams of vitamin C does Dr Thomas Levy take per day?

AHD: Ok, may I ask how many grams a day you take or does it just depend on how you are feeling?

TL: For the most part I will take one or two packets of the liposome encapsulated vitamin C a day. Every now and then, and of course other people don’t have this advantage, I just have a 25cc syringe and a butterfly and I can get myself about the 6-7g directly via an IV push.

AHD: (Laughs) Ok, that’s a very particular benefit.

TL: That’s sort of cheating.

AHD: Sure but if you can, why not huh?